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eNews: Making new memories

Our lives can take us in divergent directions and pull us towards vastly different experiences. The memories we make enroute can influence us in ways we might not expect. Such is the case with Fran Gebhard, who draws on her own memories of the music, style, and social movements of the late 1970s in her version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read on below to learn about how she has harnessed memories of an amazing summer in New York as she and our students delve into Shakespeare's fantastical world!

Behind the Scenes: Resurrecting memories of one amazing summer in New York City.

UVic faculty member and director Fran Gebhard remembers New York City in 1978 – the Ramones were rocking CBGB’s club in the Village and the flower-power generation was on its way out, being pushed into the past by a new punk attitude. New York was changing: the music, the fashion, the underground culture... and it was one amazing summer to be there.

All these memories became amazing inspiration when Fran was starting her research for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Our students in the department of theatre were really looking forward to working on this show,” says Fran. “My challenge was to find a way to recontextualize Shakespeare's centuries-old romantic comedy into an environment that would be fun and challenging for all the actors and designers involved.”

New York in 1978 fit the bill perfectly.

“When I first started thinking about Hermia [Shakespeare’s feisty and defiant female character who is one of the four young lovers], she seemed like a feminist woman right out of the late seventies,” says Fran.“We had just passed the Charter of Human Rights in Canada, and everywhere, there was a new wave of 'women’s lib.' I thought of my own adventurous trip with my sister to NYC in 1978 and it was all a great fit to Shakespeare’s story.”

Referencing many prominent areas of NYC, Fran's "Dream" sees the two pairs of lovers – Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius – as preppie socialites from Park Avenue who elope into the woods of Central Park. Here they find themselves at the mercy of powerful forces (and their own ridiculous passions). Where fairies reign in Shakespeare's forest, Fran’s Titania is a Gypsy Queen with a hippie coven and Oberon, a Rebel King with a punk gang. “In the late ‘70s, the 700-acres of Central Park could be dangerous to some, but enticingly exciting to others. I thought: here was an environment where Titania, Oberon, and the lovers, fleeing the tyranny of conservative parental rules, could all believably coexist – and collide – throughout one bewitching evening.”

Theatre design Professor Allan Stichbury captures an abstract version of the park, complete with rolling grass, manhole covers and a graffiti wall which will be tagged with spray paint live during the show. Lighting designs by students Imogen Wilson and Clare Mathison will light up NYC's historic skyline and help create the audience with the illusion of dreaming through the night.

The late '70s also marked some amazing fashion trends. Fourth-year student Dallas Ashby was excited to research and design the costumes for the many divergent but co-existing styles of the time, but especially the hippies and punkers.

"The fashion of this time really spoke to me. In highschool my personal style was an amalgamation of both hippie and punk ... well a 1990s westcoast version of this style," says Dallas who is a mature student and a mom. "It was a satisfying challenge to research the east coast 70s approach to a style that I found nostalgic."

But the vision for "Dream" encompasses more than just the hippies and punkers. For charachters like the four lovers, she drew inspiration from New York’s more conservative, tennis playing socialites. For Hippolyta, Theseus' wife-to-be, she looked towards the high glam fashionistas of Studio 54. Check out Dallas' costume designs on Pinterest.

And then there’s the music. Third-year student Kieran MacNaughton's sound design gets inspiration from hippie anthems like The Turtles' “Happy Together” and James Taylor's “Fire and Rain”, disco like the Village People’s “YMCA” and early punk with The Ramones’ “I Want to be Sedated." Click right to hear another song from the era by Bonnie Raitt, "Love Has No Pride".

“It’s been great introducing this music to the students,” says Fran. “Many of the songs were previously unknown to this generation, but the rest of us will be singing along!”

Upcoming Events: October/November

November 6-22, 2014
A Midsummer Night's Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Fran Gebhard

  • Evening Performances: Tuesday to Saturday @ 8pm
  • Matinees: Saturday November 22 @ 2pm
  • $7 Preview: TONIGHT, Wednesday November 5
    Preview tickets available only after 5pm on peformance day.
  • Friday Lecture Series: November 7 @7pm
    Before the show, join director and faculty member Fran Gebhard and costume designer Dallas Ashby in discussion about the process of recreating New York in the late 1970s.

Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy is getting punk'd. In Central Park, four lovers are at the mercy of powerful and mischievous forces -- and their own passions! Set in New York City, featuring the music, fashion and underground culture of the late 1970s, this "Dream" revisits the waning flower-power generation as it was being usurped by a new punk attitude.

Box Office is currently open for single tickets. Three-play subscription packages are still available for only $36!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 @12:30pm - 1:30pm
International Education Week
Thailand Study Exchange Panel Discussion

As part of UVic's celebrations for International Education Week, the department is hosting a panel discussion about student and faculty exchange experiences and opportunities between UVic and Bangkok University, with Professor Poe Limkul of Bangkok University, Professor Allan Stichbury of UVic, UVic exchange student Imogen Wilson, and moderator Professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta of UVic.

Thursday, January 15, 2015
Deadline for Call for Submissions: Spotlight on Alumni 2015

Alumni! Be a part of the Phoenix Theatre's 2015/16 season and submit your production for our October 2015 show. If you are part of a theatre company or have a project that has met with success in the world, we want to hear from you! Plus, it's also an opportunity to share your real life experiences with current students through talkback sessions and through the production process. (PS - If you've submitted in the past, please send it to us again this year! It's a hard choice every year, and this year your play may be the perfect fit with the rest of our season!) Submission details on the department alumni website.

Phoenix Phacts: Lots happening near and far for our alumni.

Kudos to alumna Emily Piggford for her role as Rose George in the Canadian Stage production of Helen Lawrence in Toronto this fall! Created by world-renowned visual artist Stan Douglas and acclaimed screenwriter Chris Haddock, this suspense-filled show intertwined theatre and live-action film in the style of post-war film noir. Congratulations!

A host of Phoenixers worked on Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s production of the thriller Gaslight this fall. Directed by faculty member Brian Richmond (shown right in interview with Shaw TV which starts at 0:40), the set was designed by Bryan Kenney (MFA ’12), with lighting by Rebekah Johnson (BFA ’83, Visual Arts MFA ‘10). It was stage managed by alumna Kristen Iversen (BFA ’14), and previous student Drew May was the assistant stage manager and the copper!

There's also another thriller in town at Langham Court Theatre. Featuring recent grads Michelle Morris (BFA ’14) and Julie Forrest (BFA ’14) in the Carole Frechette phsycho-drama The Small Room at the Top of the Stairs, coming up November 20 through December 6.

Charles Ross (BFA ‘98) presented his One Man Star Wars as a fundraiser for fellow alum Colin Plant’s (BFA ‘96) election campaign for Saanich Councillor. He’ll be presenting One Man Star Wars and his One Man Lord of the Rings as a fundraiser for Intrepid Theatre at the Metro Studio on December 10 and 11.

An update on our applied theatre students who are currently in India participating in a two-month field school.They are working with Tamil Nadu’s Tamaraikulam Elders' Village to help seniors and rural youth perform their own stories, develop strong community relations and create new lines of dialogue across generations. Thank you to all who supported this project last spring; this field school has received lots of attention from national media and the students are having an amazing time! Click to watch video.


Want more alumni updates? Check out the Alumni Profiles area of our website. Email your updates to us to be posted here in future eNews.

Watch for current stories by liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter. Use #phoenixalumni to stream on our alumni website or tag @UVicPhoenix for us to retweet your event!


Email Perks & Interesting Links:

Win two tickets to Intrepid Theatre's fundraising presentation of alumni Charles Ross' One Man Star Wars or One Man Lord of the Rings!

What year did Charles Ross bring One Man Star Wars to the Phoenix as the Spotlight on Alumni show? (HINT: Check out our production archive!)

Email your answers before November 21 to be entered into the draw!

Sponsor Kudos:

Thank you to the Phoenix Theatre's many individual donors and corporate sponsors for their support of our programs and talented students!

Thanks also to our supporters from the Cadboro Bay Village including: For Good Measure, Heart Pharmacy, Pepper's Foods, Smugglers' Cove Pub and Dr. Amanda Weinerman Optometry Clinic.

Find out how your company can reach our 10,000 audience members and UVic community of over 25,000. Contact us to discuss a customized sponsorship package to meet your goals.

Phoenix eNews is a regular email magazine for those interested in the Phoenix Theatre, the not-for-profit productions at the University of Victoria's Department of Theatre, PO Box 1700, STN CSC, Victoria, BC, V8W2Y2 Canada. The University of Victoria is a Registered Charity. Charitable Registration No. 10816 2470 RR0001

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